03 January, 2021

Trump loses poker face

In poker, as they say in the classics, every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.

You can be holding a fist full of nothing but if you behave confidently and/or aggressively enough, you can convince a player with three kings that you’ve got a full house. To minimise losses, that player then folds, forfeiting the money they have already bet and saving you from having to show your worthless hand.

There is one hand that cannot be beaten – the royal flush. A player holding a royal flush cannot be bluffed because they know there is no better hand. However, the perfect hand can still be beaten by a pair of twos if the player holding the twos has more in the bank than the player with the royal flush.

If the pair of twos makes a bet higher than the royal flush can match, and refuses to take an IOU, unless the royal flush can raise a loan, they have to fold. This means the royal flush loses everything and the pair of twos looks like the better player.

This brings us to Donald Trump.

Trump has been holding a pair of twos all his life. The very few figures which have become public confirm that he is not nearly as wealthy as he wants everyone to believe. His sheer braggadocio is enough to convince enough people enough of the time. Trump doesn’t have the typical inscrutable poker face but he does have the master bluffing tactic of actually believing his own bullshit. He doesn’t have to pretend he isn’t lying because in his alternate reality, he isn’t.

For those who call his bluff, Trump’s go-to option is legal action. The cases would be laughed out of court if it ever got that far, but it’s litigation the defendants haven’t the time, inclination or money to fight. So they settle. Trump wins, keeps the money and doesn’t have to show his hand.

Some might suggest this makes Trump very clever, both as a businessman and a poker player. However, I don’t think even the most devout of free market libertarians would argue that this is the way a capitalist meritocracy is supposed to work.

Trump’s response to his election loss is identical to his lifelong methods – first bluff, then sue. What he evidently fails to understand though, is he is now dealing with people and institutions who cannot be bluffed, intimidated or outbid. The way he is acting like a cornered wild animal shows he has no idea of how to process this.

For the first time in his life, Trump is finally being forced to show his hand. And now the best that he can hope for is to die in his sleep.

01 January, 2021

Be the anthem

Australia has updated the lyrics of its national anthem to say “we are one and free,” instead of “we are young and free.” This is intended to reflect the fact Australia has always been home to the world’s oldest continuous culture rather than just being the “young” nation the song was originally intended to represent.

Many have criticised the change as a token one-word acknowledgement of Australia’s Indigenous people, and it undoubtedly is. Some have also suggested the anthem should be changed to better reflect Australia. While happy to check my white privilege, I respectfully suggest we go the other way. Wouldn’t it be nice if Australia reflected the anthem?

Any nation’s anthem is a brochure, a slogan, a postcard. If any country’s anthem were honest it would say, “Look, we’ve done some really bad shit but we’re trying to be better about it.” At best.

Anyone who has ever had a dog will be aware of the old saying, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” How about Australia be the country our anthem says we are?

If we HAD wealth for toil, if we SHARED our boundless plains with those who’ve come across the sea, if we CARED for nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare, if we WERE one (but many) and free… I’d like that.